Martyr's Diaries: Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria, Only PVC During UN Peacekeeping Operations


Gurbachan Singh Salaria was born on 29 November 1935, in Janwal, a village near Shakargarh, Punjab, British India (now in Pakistan). He was the second of five children of Munshi Ram and Dhan Devi. His father had earlier been drafted into the Dogra Squadron of the Hodson's Horse in the British Indian Army. Listening to tales of his father and his regiment motivated Salaria to join the army at a very young age. 

In 1946, he was admitted to King George's Royal Military College (KGRMC) in Bangalore. In August 1947, he was transferred to the KGRMC in Jalandhar. After passing out from KGRMC, he joined the Joint Services Wing of the National Defence Academy (NDA). On graduating from the NDA in 1956, he enrolled in the Indian Military Academy, completing his studies on 9 June 1957. Salaria was initially commissioned into the 2nd battalion, 3 Gorkha Rifles, but was later transferred to the 3rd battalion, 1 Gorkha Rifles in March 1960 which was part of the 3000-soldier Indian aid to the U.N. Peacekeeping Force during the Congo Crisis of 1961. His regiment was sent to Katanga to put a stop to the Katangese troops in Congo on the orders of the U.N SC. 

OPERATION UNAKOT, 1961

On 5th Dec 1961, the regiment, supported by a 3-inch mortar, attacked an enemy roadblock between HQ Katanga command and Elizabethville airfield and established a UN roadblock there. However, Captain Salaria and his platoon met strong opposition. The enemy possessed two armoured cars and 90 men. They opened fire with heavy automatic and small arms. Despite the superior enemy strength and firepower, Salaria faced the enemy, head on. The Gorkhas charged at the enemy with bayonets, khukris, hand grenades, and a rocket launcher.

Salaria and his men took down 40 of the enemy and took out two enemy cars. This deterred the enemy troops who were demoralized and fled despite greater numbers and positions. In the exchange, Captain Salaria was wounded in the neck by a burst of automatic fire. Ignoring the injury, he fought with his men bravely till he collapsed due to the bleeding. Captain Salaria died a hero’s death and his actions prevented the Katangese rebels from encircling the UN HQ in Elizabethville.

His leadership, courage, unflinching devotion to duty and disregard for personal safety were in the best traditions of the Indian Army and for which Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria was posthumously awarded the highest wartime medal, Param Vir Chakra. He is the Only PVC During UN Peacekeeping Operations. 

Maj Gen RP Singh recalled  Salaria showing him his own right hand and saying , 

Wait and see, this star will take me to great heights



LEGACY

The Shipping Corporation of India Ltd (SCI), named fifteen of her Crude Oil Tankers in honour of the Param Vir Chakra recipients. The crude oil tanker named  “Capt. Gurbachan Singh Salaria, PVC” was delivered to SCI on 26-10-1984.

The courageous story of Capt Salaria was immortalized in the 1988 television serial Param Vir Chakra by Chetan Anand. His role was essayed by actor Brando Bakshi.

CITATION 

CAPTAIN GURBACHAN SINGH SALARIA
 IC-8497

On 5 December 1961, 3/1 Gorkha Rifles was ordered to clear a roadblock established by the gendarmerie at a strategic roundabout at Elizabethville, Katanga. The plan was that one company with 2 Swedish armoured cars would attack the position frontally and Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria with two sections of Gorkhas and two Swedish armoured personnel carriers would advance towards this roadblock from the airfield to act as a cutting-off force. Captain Salaria with his small force arrived at a distance of 1500 yards from the roadblock at approximately 1312 hours on 5 December 1961 and came under heavy automatic and small-arms fire from an undetected enemy position dug in on his right flank. The enemy also had two armoured cars and about 90 men opposing Captain Salaria’s small force. Captain Salaria appreciating that he had run into a subsidiary roadblock and ambush and that this enemy force might reinforce the strategic roundabout and thus jeopardise the main operation, decided to remove this opposition. He led a charge with bayonets, khukris, and grenades supported by a rocket launcher. In this gallant engagement, Captain Salaria killed 40 of the enemy and knocked out the two armoured cars. This unexpected bold action completely demoralised the enemy who fled despite their numerical superiority and protected positions. Captain Salaria was wounded in his neck by a burst of automatic fire but continued to fight till he collapsed due to profuse bleeding. Captain Salaria’s gallant action prevented any enemy movement of the enemy force towards the main battle scene and thus contributed very largely to the success of the main battalion’s action at the roundabout and prevented the encirclement of UN Headquarters in Elizabethville. Captain Salaria subsequently died of his wounds.

Dead upon the field of glory, Hero fit for song and story. 

Sir, May your soul REST IN POWER.  

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